Omar Gómez

Published on Monday, 10 April 2017

“If they were not going see them alive again, at least they wanted their bodies for the funeral”

Before you, there were no firefighters in your family. Why did you decided to be one?

All my family, especially my father, likes helping others. I saw him attending emergencies since 1985, when he was working for Sedapal. When the water supply networks would collapse due to a landslide or an earthquake, for example, he was in charge of leading the emergency squad.

There is the relation!

Yes. And thanks to my dad, I learned to drive backhoes, 4x4 cars, graders (laughs)… My father wanted me to be an engineer, but my heart decided I was a firefighter.

How come?

When I was a kid, my dad used to make us walk to school. I was six years old and I remember there was a fire station on the way. I wanted to go in! Once I saw one of these machines at the door and I could not help it anymore, so I said, “Dad, I want to get on that car before going to school, please”. Some very nice firefighters allowed me to get on and ever since then my mind was set on driving a car like that.

That machine must have looked huge to you, a 6-year-old.

It was a spaceship to me! It was new… it was the large-scale toy every kid wanted to have.

Now that you are a firefighter with eighteen years of experience, what is the best this path has given you?

The satisfaction of helping others and complement my profession beyond the hospital. See victims as patients who are trapped without an option.

What does it feel to rescue somebody?

You feel their heart beating inside yours. You get so involved in the situation that you even feel you are the one who is trapped.

That shows a high level of sensitivity. However, when it is time to rescue, you think straight putting aside your emotions.

We have to be 100% objective and that is possible thanks to the professionalism of the fire department.

That means that, to be a firefighter, is not enough to be willing to help.

Not everyone can be a firefighter, much less be part of special squads, especially because you can lose your life and leave your family for helping someone you have never met before.

You can also lose workmates when helping others.

Yes. We sometimes say, “It is part of the business”. A fatality can occur at any time. We always have that in mind.

What was the reaction of your parents when you told them you wanted to become a firefighter?

Since I told them, and every time I get ready to go to the fire station or they see the news, they worry, because they know the risks of my work.

A combination of pride and worry.

Worry, pride, concern… We have talked about it. They know where my insurance policy is. It is quite uncomfortable to talk about it, but it has to be done. “If don’t make it, the key of the drawer is there. You will find everything well-organised”. They know it.

Something curious happens here. Some of the members of this fire station do not live in Bellavista, but are part of it in honour of their parents who worked there. For the love they feel for the fire station, they come from Villa El Salvador, Carabayllo, etc.

Even as far as from Ventanilla! It is amazing! They could ask to be transferred to a fire station near their work or home, but no, this is their fire station and they want to support it.

Why are you a firefighter?

For the great satisfaction of helping others.

And nothing can stand in the way of that.

Nothing. While there are people who need it, this feeling in my heart will remain. The fire stations will continue growing.

Some drivers do not yield when your siren rings, some people make fake emergency calls…

We lack culture of prevention and respect. In that aspect, our society has worsened a lot. That is why we focus on children and we organise many activities for them. Even children attending pre-school visit us. We have to invest in them! It is very frustrating to be on the way to an emergency and find people who will not help… That is our situation right now; we only have to be patient and keep moving to revert the situation.

In spite of everything, the balance is positive. There are even new firefighters in your family.

In my family and at work. It makes me very happy because they identify with the institution, they feel the fire station’s goals as their own and are beginning to follow this path.

You are harvesting what you have sown.

Yes, they see a role model in me.  They show me their affection, respect, gratitude and consideration.

It is worth being a firefighter.

Of course it is! It is like being a priest or a doctor but you help people in a different way.